With the new fence cutting off public access to the Saluda River through Riverbanks Zoo’s parking lot, river users will be looking for other places to get out on the water.
Here are the public access points on the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers:
Saluda Shoals Park/Metts Landing
Just downstream from the Lake Murray dam, Saluda Shoals and Metts Landing are directly across the river from each other, off Bush River and Corley Mill roads. There’s a fee to enter Saluda Shoals, and park staffers are in the parking area often. Metts Landing is free but isn’t staffed.
When the river is low, you can paddle upstream and, if you can maneuver through a couple of rocky shoals, get within a couple hundred yards of the dam. The downstream trip to Gardendale landing is an easy 3.5-mile paddle.
This unstaffed parking area is off Bush River Road (turn at Garden Valley Lane). When the river is low, you can paddle upstream or downstream, turn around after a while and return to the landing. The next public access point is 6.5 miles downstream at the Gervais Street bridge. Unless you know the Mill Race rapids well, or are with someone who does and can guide you through, you would be safer to get out and carry kayaks, canoes or tubes around them. As you near the zoo, stick to the right-hand side of the river and get out at the wide power-line right-of-way. You’ll find a path along the river that goes through the botanical garden property and comes out at the downstream end of Mill Race.
West Columbia amphitheater/Senate Street landing
There are public access points on either side of the river (it’s the Congaree by then) just past the Gervais Street bridge. On the west bank, there are concrete steps up to the West Columbia amphitheater area, which also includes a bathroom and plenty of parking across Alexander Road. Across the river, the Senate Street landing is a deteriorating paved road that leads to a locked gate at the corner of Gist and Senate streets in Columbia. It’s easy to walk around the gate, but you can’t drive down closer to the river. There’s limited parking along Gist and Senate.
The official name is Barney Jordan Landing, and it is a large parking area and boat ramp at the end of Rosewood Drive on the Columbia side of the river. At low water levels, the river trip from Gervais Street to Rosewood involves dodging rocks and waving to folks walking on the riverside greenways. But newcomers need to be careful. There’s a low dam in this section, part of the old canal system. To avoid going over the dangerous dam, stick to the right side of the river and go through the old locks.
The official name is Thomas Newman Landing, and it is a large parking area and boat ramp off Old State Road in Cayce. Don’t miss it because the next public landing is a loooong way downstream at U.S. 601. Soon, the Cayce Riverwalk will reach this landing (with a short detour around Riverland Park subdivision). Then it’ll be possible to do some combination of walk, bike or paddle up and back on the river and the riverside trail.
The stretch of the Broad near Peak is suitable for short paddles downriver and back to the landing off S.C. 213 on the Peak side of the bridge over the river. If you want to keep going downstream, the next public access point is 17 miles away at Harbison State Forest, which is an overnight trip for all but the strongest paddlers.
Harbison State Forest
The canoe/kayak launch site at Harbison is on a small creek with a steep bank. It’s tough to get in and out. Also, you need to check in with the forest office to file a float plan and get the combination for the road gate lock because vehicle access to that portion of the forest is limited. The next public access is 5 miles downstream at the Richland County Rowing Center, just past the I-20 bridge. Parking there has been an on-and-off issue. The main access gate is several hundred yards from the dock at the intersection of Omarest and Koulter drives, in a neighborhood off Broad River Road. Also, paddlers aren’t allowed to go downstream from the rowing center because the river goes over the dangerous Columbia Canal diversion dam.
North end of Riverfront Park
Just below the diversion dam in Riverfront Park is a canoe-kayak launch site. The parking lot is off River Road, on the east side of the bridge over the Broad. You have to carry boats up a walkway and over the start of the canal. There’s a tricky little rapid at the launch site, but the rest of the trip downstream is relatively easy. You can chose from several routes through the many large islands where the Broad and Saluda rivers come together. All eventually lead to the Gervais Street bridge and the Senate Street or West Columbia amphitheater access points.
View Accessing the Midlands' 3 rivers in a larger map